Language and Art: Spanish Classes Explore the Work of Frida Kahlo Via Cross-Curricular Project

Language and Art: Spanish Classes Explore the Work of Frida Kahlo Via Cross-Curricular Project
With sparkling cider and cheese in hand, guests carefully inspect a variety of self portraits hanging on the sparse white walls of the gallery. The artists stand nearby, ready to answer questions about their work.

The gallery is The Gibbs Family Center for Innovation + Design and the artists are students in Ms. Teresa York’s Spanish IV and Spanish IV Honors classes. Speaking completely in Spanish, students responded to questions from their peers about their artistic choices.

Inspired by reading a biography of Frida Kahlo written in comprehensible Spanish, students created self portraits of themselves in homage to her. Ms. Kahlo was a prolific Mexican painter known for surreal self-portraits that often featured her distinctive floral headwear, ornate dresses, and strong eyebrows.

Art teachers Ms. Leslie Gamble and Mrs. Allison Thomas gave students instruction on how to use watercolor. Students then created self portraits featuring objects that represent them in some way.

“One of my goals this year was to use the entire campus as my classroom,” Ms. York said. “Another was to help create connections across disciplines to show students that learning Spanish is not confined to our classroom walls. This project accomplished both those goals.”

“The project let me express my creativity, while strengthening my knowledge of the language,” junior Sophia Musso said.

Frida Kahlo's greatest muse was arguably herself. Of her 143 paintings, 55 were self portraits, with many depicting the pain and suffering she endured throughout her life. She once famously said: "I paint myself because I am often so alone, and because I am the subject I know best."

“In the age of the selfie, I thought my students would relate to her affinity to share her image with others,” Ms. York said. “I wanted students to reflect on their identity after studying someone who had such clear thoughts about her own. This is a time in their lives when they are trying to figure out so much about who they are. Our project helped capture a specific moment in time.”

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